New Title Radar: March 26 – April 1

British author Grace McCleen gets major early reviews, but a mixed reaction to her much-anticipated fiction debut with The Land of Decoration, while Nobel-winner Nadine Gordimer probes the lives of a biracial couple in post-Apartheid South Africa and National Book Award finalist Lioner Shriver delivers a satire about terrorism. Usual suspects include James Patterson & David Ellis, and Danielle Steel. Plus there’s a memoir by New York Mets starting pitcher and former English major R.A. Dickey.


The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Macmillan/Holt) focuses on a 10 year-old daughter of Armageddon-fearing Christian fundamentalists, who starts to believe in her own omnipotence and becomes bolder as her efforts seem to work. In a New York Times review that ran this week, slightly ahead of the book’s publication on 3/27, Janet Maslin says that young Judith’s “voice of God evolves into a slangy, wise cracking, child’s-eye version of divinity, and that the book’s tensions mount in a simple and schematic way.” Ron Charles, reviewing it in the Washington Post on Tuesday, saying, “alas, The Land of Decoration is not in the same room as Donoghue’s great novel [Room]. ” The book is getting a better reception in the UK, where the Times of London picked it as one of four “must-read titles of 2012” and the Waterstones bookstore chain tagged it as one of 11 debuts expected to win awards.

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti (HMH) is a historical novel by a Penguin Group USA vice president and editor at large, about a woman who follows her love to Paris, only to find herself marooned, pregnant, penniless and trying to survive in France’s Second Empire. PW says, “though its hard to care for such a self-centered heroine, the sweeping, fascinating epic is full of drama and beauty.”


No Time Like the Present by Nadine Gordimer (Macmillan/FSG) focuses on Steve and Jabulile, an interracial couple living in a newly, tentatively, free South Africa. In a starred review, Booklist says, “Gordimer dramatizes with acute specificity, wit, and sympathy the mix of guilt and conviction her freedom-fighter characters experience as they admit, The Struggle is not over. Still, isn’t it time to simply live their lives and give up the fight? Literary warrior Gordimer writes, There is only one time, all time, for principles you live by.”

The New Republic by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins; HarperLuxe; Dreamscape Media) is the National Book Award finalist’s fictional exploration of the intimate relationship between terrorism and cults of personality. People magazine says, “dramatically different from her chilling 2003 bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin…Shriver’s new novel is a blowsy, cynical romp about journalists sent to cover a mysterious terrorist movement…While Shriver’s urge to entertain can be exhausting, her whip-smart observations… are funny and on the mark.”  LJ was more sanguine: “While the characters are forgettable and the satire doesn’t go quite far enough, this is still an interesting read that might appeal to fans of Tom Perrotta.”


Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio) is a thriller in which the family vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime–for survival.

Betrayal by Danielle Steel (RH/Delacorte Press; RH Large Print; Brilliance Audio) focuses on an eccentric movie director who falls prey to a sociopath sidekick and a feckless producer/lover. Kirkus call it “a methodical Hollywood morality tale.”

Elegy for Eddie: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (HarperCollins) is the ninth novel featuring London investigator and psychologist Maisie Dobbs, who investigates the brutal killing of a street peddler that will take her from the working-class neighborhoods of her childhood into London’s highest circles of power. Kirkus says, “Certainly not Winspear’s strongest mystery. But newcomers will enjoy the exploration of class-bound Britain between the wars, and fans will relish the continued development of Maisie’s complicated character.”


Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey (Penguin/Blue Rider Press) is a memoir by the starting pitcher for the New York Mets – and a former English major. PW says, “The author emerges as one of baseball’s good guys, and someone who can write as well as he pitches. Dickey has set a new standard for athlete autobiographies.” The publisher offers this hook; “The Glass Castle meets Ball Four as Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey weaves searing honesty and baseball insight in this memoir about his unlikely journey to the big leagues.”


Chomp by Carl Hiassen (RH/Knopf Young Readers; Listening Library; Audio on OverDrive); Hiasson’s fourth book for kids is a guaranteed best seller. In a starred review, Booklist says its the author’s “best for a young audience since Newbery Honor Hoot (2002)” and Hornbook couldn’t resist saying,  “Chomp is a story for readers to sink their teeth into.”

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